Peaking In Maine

By Tim Krekel

Scotty the drummer and Pat the Italian bass fanatic could not believe these hillbillies from Kentucky. If the call had come from anyone but Abbott they would have run and hid. But Abbott Vaughn Meader (sage, comedian, pianist, political analyst, poet, Dharmabum, and non-elected representative of a certain sector of Hallowell, Maine) is not someone you say no to! "Moderation," "Don't peak too soon!" saith the wise one. But more about that later.

We left Louisville on a Friday in August, four in a red-neck conversion van. Two high school teachers (Bob Watson and Ron Orwich); one former teacher and now CEO of his own company, "Time On My Hands" Otis Franklin; and myself (itinerant musician-singer-songwriter; on a quest of sorts that I didn't really understand until it was over.

We arrived in Hallowell at noon on Saturday, picked up Abbott and headed directly to The Wharf, a fine little bar-restaurant that would be our headquarters for the next ten days. This was to be a working vacation for me, in that I was booked into The Wharf the following Friday and Saturday, along with Abbott-picked rhythm section Scott and Pat, and a soulful, smooth saxophonist, Sam Wall, and special appearances by the guru (Abbott) himself.

We spent the first few days as guests in a cabin on a pond. The pond was the size of a good-sized lake. The cabin was furnished by Abbott's cousins, the Hemphills and Davey Rosado, with true Yankee hospitality. Our time there was spent eating (lobster rolls, steamed clams, fresh corn, and Sheila's Boston cream pie), jet-skiing, and playing music. In fact, I played more music on my vacation than I do when I'm working, but it never felt like work.

Sunday afternoon Abbott suggested we go see a friend a few cabins down the road. As the five of us walked into the back yard we spotted seven or eight lovely ladies sitting in lawn chairs, and they invited us to sit down. Well, we figured they would offer us some libations and some friendly talk, until we realized we had crashed a Tupperware party. We left without buying anything.

Most nights ended up at The Wharf, where they had bands Monday through Sunday. I ended up playing with all of them and I got to jam with some fine dedicated musicians. The state motto of Maine is "The Way Life Should Be," and that's an accurate description, with emphasis on music, food, nature, and simplicity.

We headed north to Moosehead Lake on Wednesday to a party/rehearsal. It was there that I first got to play with Scotty and Pat, my weekend band. On a beautiful Maine night we set up a sound system, rolled out a spinet piano, and plugged in guitars on the side porch of the inn where we were staying. We jammed, partied (we didn't have to drive anywhere!), danced, and carried on till the wee hours. John Browne, who owns a steak house down the road, brought his musical spoons; Stevie Davis, a lobsterman, brought his banjo, and along with thirty or forty others we had a great time.

Thursday it was back to Hallowell for Abbott's annual summer gig. He sat at the piano and mesmerized us all with his stream-of-consciousness music, and poetry. I believe I saw Abbott's wife Sheila fall in love with him again that night.

Well, as you can tell, this was not your traditional rest-and-relaxation type of vacation. We played hard, but we still had to make it through the final weekend! All week we had done our best to practice moderation so we wouldn't "peak" too soon. It was time for Louisville night at The Wharf.

We set up Friday afternoon and had a rehearsal of sorts. Scott and Pat had gotten a tape of some of my songs and we talked about some "cover" tunes we could do. That night The Wharf was full. We started with an instrumental blues and then jumped into some wild Kentucky rock and roll. Bobby Watson started snapping his fingers and before long the whole place was rocking! By the time the last note was played Saturday night, I believe the whole town of Hallowell had been there dancing. I walked outside for some fresh air and was watching the moon over the Kennebec River when I heard Abbott and Mimi leading the bar in a version of "Amazing Grace." That's when I "peaked."

Sunday we drove to Point Clyde, where Stevie Davis lives. We bought twenty-two lobsters from a friend of Stevie's and then went out into the bay on a lobster boat. After a couple of hours we came ashore and went to Stevie's parents' house. His mother and Sheila and Dottie put on pots of water to boil while we ran an extension cord out under a tree in the yard. His dad plugged in his pedal steel guitar and an electronic keyboard for Abbott, Stevie got out his banjo, I my guitar, along with John on harmonica, and Ron on gut-string, and had one last session while the lobsters boiled. It was the end of a special trip and I "peaked" once more on that Sunday afternoon.

Tim Krekel is a talented and successful songwriter-musician who was at one time a member of Jimmy Buffett's band.